My name is Rose Swetman and I am the Co-Pastor of Vineyard Community Church in Shoreline, WA. This is an open letter and response to you concerning your recent blog post titled “Evangelical Leader Quits Amid Allegations of Gay Sex and Drug Use” and your next post, titled, “Ted Haggard Scandal 2.0.” I have followed and added some of my own responses to some of the recent flurry of reaction on various blog sites to some of your statements.
Several things are true about both of us. First, I am a woman, a pastor, and have a specific set of theological presuppositions. I am given to peacemaking. You are male, a pastor, and also have a specific set of theological presuppositions and by your own admission a street fighter. It is through each of our lens that we see and teach the things we do. We both bring different strengths and weaknesses to the body of Christ. Therefore, I speak to you as your peer and your equal before God.
I do not make a habit of responding publicly to church leaders about controversy (although I have placed the comments noted above recently). I rather, because of my leanings toward peacemaking, try to find and keep unity (not uniformity) in the body of Christ. However, recently I have felt like Jude. I find it necessary, in light of the protest planned on your church, to speak out as a pastor, not a feminist pastor, but a woman pastor, on this present controversy because it is affecting the local body of believers who I am called to serve.
From the things I have read, it is apparent that we do not share the same starting point theologically about “women in ministry.” You seem to place yourself in a view held by such noted biblical scholars as Wayne Grudem, called the Complementarian view of male and female gender roles. As I have read your posts and listened to some of your sermon presentations, I rather think you are theologically a Traditionalist and maybe, without knowing it, you are masquerading as a Complementarian. On a recent post on the Act 29 website called “Is the biblical view of women applicable in our culture today?” (May 8 2006), your wife Grace writes on this issue. I assume for discussion that the two of you would hold similar if not equal theological views on this subject. In that article Grace wrote:
To answer the initial question that I asked about the Bible, we have to ask who our God is. Does what the Bible say about women really apply to us today in this culture (submission, can’t be a pastor, weaker vessel, more easily deceived, etc.)? Yes. God created us to submit, not because He hates us, rather because He loves us enough to protect us. Doesn’t it make us too vulnerable to ours husbands? As daughters of Eve we are more easily deceived, but like Ruth under the security of our husband and our God we are safe. Doesn’t it limit our ability to demonstrate our gifts? No. We can lead children and women, which is what a Titus 2 woman should desire.This teaching alone leads me to perceive that you would follow more to a Traditionalist view of gender roles.
I believe the Egalitarian view of gender roles as closer to the intent of what Scripture teaches and held by such scholars as Gordon Fee and Rebecca Groothuis. I believe Scripture teaches the equality of genders in creation and that female submission, if that is what “rule” means in the fall story, started the idea of patriarchy. Patriarchy was the result of sin and the curse rather than God’s created intention.
My basic theological presupposition is Kingdom of God theology ala George Ladd and N. T. Wright’s theological input. I believe the Kingdom is here now, but “not yet.” This view leads me to the conclusion that the future of the Kingdom is here in the present and that we, the church, are to be a sign and witness of Kingdom order. When the Kingdom is consummated, the Scripture states that “we will all” reign with Christ. I believe that this is a fair biblical perspective. One you and many others may disagree with, but good Christians may disagree without using unchristian and uncharitable words when they differ. I would call your attention to the debates between N. T. Wright and Marcus Borg who have many differing views about the “Historical Jesus,” but in public conversation remained civil in their debate.
It seems to me that in your “Traditional,” or as some have stated, “hard Complementarian” view of Scripture, you seemed to have developed a rather unhealthy, vitriolic, abrasive, unchristian, and uncharitable form of rhetoric to describe women in your posts and sermons. You have been labeled with the descriptive word, “misogynist” by some. When I hear that word used, I don’t just think about a person that only “hates” women, rather I think of the word as also carrying an injustice ideology, similar to racism or anti-Semitism. For me a misogynist justifies and maintains a subordination of women by men for reasons that are not always apparent. I know you say that you believe in equality, just difference of roles. But, to hold a view that submission is in a woman’s DNA, which then disallows equal ministry with a man, is to hold both a far reaching and a destructive theology. The passage in Galatians about no Jew or Greek, male or female, slave or free seems to sum up God’s story in Jesus. For some, this issue injures the heart of God because of his desire for justice. It is for many men and women a justice issue as was, and still is to some degree, the issue of racism in and out of the church in the last century.
Here are a few illustrations of what you have said verbally or in writing that I personally find offensive. I have not referenced these quotes but can if need be.
First, there are varying degrees of “Christian” feminism and the more hardened variety is the battering ram on the church door that opens the way for homosexuality. What I mean is this: if we deny the Biblical tenets that we were made equal but distinct as male and female, with differing God-intended roles in the church and home, then homosexuality is the logical conclusion.Remember, I believe in an Egalitarian view of gender roles. Your comments above seem to say that you would call me a “Christian” feminist. You teach that women like me are out of God’s intended roles for women in the church and home and that if the church allows women in ministry then homosexuals in ministry would be the next logical conclusion. This is not only offensive to me, it is demeaning of my personhood. I would consider myself a daughter of my Father in heaven rather than a daughter of Eve, as per your wife’s article. I believe the work of Jesus has reversed the curse and set me free. I no longer live in Genesis Chapter 3.
Women will be saved by going back to the role that God has chosen for them.Sensitive men and women with only a passing acquaintance of a theological mindset would naturally hear how unchristian this statement is. It seems you hold the opinion that if I don’t follow the role that you think God has chosen for me, a role that you find favorable because of the theological lens you see through, then I am not saved.
All of this has led this blogger to speculate that if Christian males do not man up soon, the Episcopalians may vote a fluffy baby bunny rabbit as their next bishop to lead God’s men. When asked for their perspective, some bunny rabbits simply said that they have been discriminated against long enough and that people need to "Get over it."It appears to me that in an effort to be cute or funny, neither of which works, this statement is one of the most mean-spirited I have ever read. Even if you had many valid points from your theological lens in your post, to name-call an ordained minister, whether you agree or not, a “bunny rabbit,” you need to “man up” and retract such a demeaning statement and issue an apology. I wonder why you don’t use such inflammatory language when you write for the Seattle Times!
Now to the point of the Ted Haggard posts. I am going to assume you have not been totally insulated from the firestorm over your comments such as:
Most pastors I know do not have satisfying, free, sexual conversations and liberties with their wives. At the risk of being even more widely despised than I currently am, I will lean over the plate and take one for the team on this. It is not uncommon to meet pastors’ wives who really let themselves go; they sometimes feel that because their husband is a pastor, he is therefore trapped into fidelity, which gives them cause for laziness. A wife who lets herself go and is not sexually available to her husband in the ways that the Song of Songs is so frank about is not responsible for her husband’s sin, but she may not be helping him either.And then:
Contrary to some who misrepresented my prior blog, Gayle is in no way responsible for the sin of her husband and by all accounts seems to have been a lovely and devoted wife.These two comments, no matter how you explain them, are an offense to many women, let alone pastors' wives, and to me personally. Can’t you see how even posting that women have motives such as this — my husband is a pastor so he is trapped into fidelity so I can sit back and let myself go — is offensive? In the second post, you sound patronizing and demeaning of Gayle Haggard calling her “lovely and devoted.” Please don’t call me out as a feminist that does not want to be considered “lovely’ or “devoted” because that is not my issue. The issue is that Ted Haggard’s struggle is homosexuality. It did not seem to matter if Gayle Haggard was the most beautiful, devoted woman, and with her husband the most sexually active woman on the planet, it would not have changed this situation one iota. So for you make this statement in these terms and make it an issue of sexual impropriety, failure, and sin, in my opinion, simply misses the point. It is offensive to talk to men and women this way and certainly reveals something about your character which for this reader seems rather prurient. One of the marks of a great leader, when she or he discovers that they have not faired well under their responsibility to not arbitrarily offend, is to make a public or private apology as the circumstances dictate. Because this was a public statement, it calls for a public apology.
Here are some examples where men have spoken out to support and correct you.
As someone who has spoken out in favor of women in leadership and against Mark’s often-times poorly chosen words and hurtful ideas… I still need to say that I have grave reservations about one set of Christians publicly protesting another set.”And I might add, the PAF group do not identify as a Christian group and don’t seem to be attempting to operate under the constraints of any particular religious guidelines. This is a social justice issue.
Bob has called you out several times on what many perceived as hurtful ideas and poorly chosen words. I have never seen you apologize or retract. This is disturbing because you have been given a large stage from which to speak. As one Christian leader to another, I believe you need to take responsibility in choosing your words. This boils down to an issue with power and how power is stewarded by leaders. You have continually used your power to demean people with derogatory terms such as “limp wristed, and chickified”
These words might seem “hip” to you, but others don’t view it that way. Here are a couple of thoughts from Andrew Jones’ blog (I think Andrew would consider himself your friend). He has posted on the website that is organizing the protest against your teaching and irresponsible use of rhetoric. Here is what Andrew says:
I am not defending mark’s statement here, and i understand the tension and anger, but i just think this protest is too severe, too early, and too divisive. I have not heard yet of your failed attempts to chat with mark about it and I don’t see the love and godly concern for mark that should underlie an attempt at discipline. My gut feeling is that this protest is not a good idea right now and another measure should be found.And here are a couple of comments from Andrew’s blog, highlights mine:
It saddens me even more that Driscoll (and those who know him) are aware of his tendency towards verbal violence & have known it for some time. Posted by: Bob C | Jan 28, 2006 8:13:28 PM
Thanks for this piece, esp on the history of relations between the various leaders of Emergent and folks like Driscoll.This open letter is an attempt on my part to ask you to stop your insulting rhetoric and not abuse the power that has been given you by using bombastic statements about people, both male and especially the demeaning way you name-call women. In my opinion, you are causing injury to your brothers and sisters. There is enough injury inflicted from our enemy without leaders of the flock adding to the amount of injury.
First, I have no idea where you get your definition of "midrash" for your definition sounds more like Hegelian dialectic. Midrash is interpretation of all sorts, not just the clashing of views.
Second, it is very pomo of you to say you like Driscoll so therefore you put up with his comments, for it shows the interpersonal relations inherent to all genuine conversation. But, as we learned from Aristotle, relationship does always mean condoning but involves correction and exhortation. Driscoll's rhetoric is uncharitable and unchristian, even if one agrees with his overall stance (which is traditional) about homosexuality.
Andrew, I rarely see such vitriol coming from a Christian leader, and I'd like you to reconsider support of his rhetoric as something Driscoll is known for. Offensive rhetoric puts folks on their heals; conversation welcomes to the table; the pursuit of truth enables us to argue our differences. Posted by: Scot McKnight | Jan 28, 2006 8:49:35 PM
We are all free to speak our mind and choose the words we use when we speak. However, we as pastors serving in the greater Seattle area and beyond, also have a responsibility to not use our freedom of speech to cause undue harm on the members of the body of Christ. With that in mind, Andrew, Bob, and others have called for a meeting to sit down with you and have a conversation, in which those of us who are offended with the way in which you have used your voice, and those who wish to protest you and your church may dialogue. I do not have any power to stop the protest, but as a woman, an ordained minister, and fully committed follower of Jesus that has been offended by you, I am asking if you are willing to sit down and converse?
I would appreciate a public response to this letter. You get to choose. I hope as a reformed street-fighter, which you have referred to yourself as, that you are able to find a way to be a part of the conversation. I await your response.
Peace and grace,
Vineyard Community Church